Triggers Unpacked

“A trigger is when something happens and we have an emotional reaction that seems stronger than the situation calls for. Something has happened that has caused your internal alarm system to go off. This is a moment to be curious and kind towards yourself. Triggers can be a doorway to deep healing if you are conscious of their presence and choose to address them.” (Jennifer Nurick – Heal You Anxious Attachment, p. 120).

When you experience a trigger like this, you have essentially time-travelled. A younger part that has been hurt in the past is re-experiencing the same pain and has taken over your system. In Internal Family Systems, we say, it has blended with you. 

A common mistake is to over-focus on the cause of the trigger, to want to unpack precisely what was triggering. The younger parts like this because the focus is outside. The world out there is bad. Their worldview is being re-confirmed. 

The younger parts are desperately trying to get from the current situation what they didn’t get at the time of the original trauma. That might be protection, boundaries, an apology, kindness or holding others accountable. You might hear yourself making demands and proclamations in your current situation that are really your younger self telling Mum and Dad what is and is not acceptable. 

This younger part is in deep pain and needs your care and love. 

When you are focused on the cause of the trigger, all of your energy is tied up in things you can’t control. Ultimately, you can’t stop the same person from doing the same thing again or someone else doing something similar. Others are not within your control. 

Suppose you pause momentarily and take your eyes off what was done to you. Get curious and kind toward yourself and get to know the part of you that had the initial strong reaction. This is the part of you that felt the pain or fear when triggered. A younger part jumped up and ‘blended’ (took over control). 

This is where your healing is. It is a massive opportunity for healing, and why I have included a powerful process in my book called “Trigger Healing” – because we are all human, and we all have hurt parts that get activated sometimes. 

In brief – your trigger is a treasure. It shows you where a hurt part is that needs your care. 

Once the hurt parts have received your support and love, it is time to reflect on the current day situation. You’ll find that the charge has usually gone out of it, or it is much reduced. From this place, you can consider what needs to happen in your current life, for example, if a boundary needs to be established or if you need to end a relationship. Once the younger part is taken care of, you will find there is much more clarity and perspective.

Let me know if this is useful.